Mary Anderson Biography & Resources

Mary Christine McKee was born in Bemidji, Minnesota in 1940. Her mother Norma was a Girl Scout troop leader and camp director. Her father John was owner and director of the McKee Funeral Home in Bemidji, and was also a state legislator from 1951-1966. Mary graduated from Bemidji High School, and was active in Girl Scouts through her school years.

Mary earned a degree in architecture at the University of Minnesota, the only woman in her class of 80, and worked briefly in that field. She returned to school for an education degree and taught for three years at Grant Elementary on the east side of St. Paul before returning to school

again to earn a Master's degree in home economics. Mary met State Representative Wendell R. Anderson while working as a page in the Minnesota Legislature. The couple married in 1963 and had three children, Amy, Elizabeth and Brett.

Wendell Anderson was elected governor of Minnesota in 1970. During her tenure as first lady of Minnesota, Mary Anderson put the needs of her children first, fitting her official duties around their activities. She clustered official events several days a week to leave other days free of public functions. Favorite memories of the former first lady include a 1972 luncheon with presidential candidate George McGovern that was attended by Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale and protected by 25 secret servicemen, the Upper Midwest Governors' Conference in 1974, entertaining royalty, including Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden and King Carl Gustav of Sweden, spending many evenings with Hubert and Muriel Humphrey, and eating pecan pie on the porch with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter.

Mary Anderson traveled regularly to the National Governors' Conferences where she met with other first ladies. She noticed many similarities and differences in their duties and thought there was much they could learn from one another. To facilitate this exchange, Mary conducted a nationwide survey of first ladies in 1972 and compiled the results for a pamphlet, Smile and Be Yourself, or How First Ladies Manage. Mary was also active in leadership of the Girl Scouts, serving on its National Board in the 1970s.

Wendell and Mary Anderson divorced in 1990 and Mary resumed use of her maiden name.